Getting Ready: Preparing for the Last Few Weeks

In many areas across the US the next few weeks will bring about the end of the third marking period in most schools, and that means that soon it will be time for our students to return to their respective home countries. This can be a stressful time of year. There are exams; school events, like the prom; and lots of preparations to be made for the end of the semester. And, of course, there are all the friends, family members, neighbors and teachers to see before departing. Cramming all of that into the last six to ten weeks can be a challenge, but staying organized will help to make things a little less chaotic as the days roll by.

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Start by making a list of all the things you need to do before the semester ends. Below are some tips and common issues that students deal with in the final months that may help you to think your way through your own departure:

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1) Do you need to convalidate your grades in your home country? The countries of Ecuador, Brazil, Italy, Spain and Mexico allow students who have studied abroad to submit their official transcripts to their country’s embassy for authentication. This process ensures that students can receive credit for their work abroad upon returning. Each country has a slightly different procedure, and it helps to know what that is before getting started. Visit the country’s embassy page on the web and do some research to find out exactly how it’s done. One thing that is for certain is that transcripts must be stamped with the school seal and signed by a notary in the state in which the school resides. Once all the documentation is gathered it is up to the student to make arrangements for the submission of all paperwork to the embassy.

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2) Have you completed your service hours? Each student is required to complete at least five community service hours while residing in the US. With Spring emerging lots of organizations are going to be setting up community events, such as park clean-ups, fund drives, food and clothing drives, and community fairs and parades. Look through the community bulletin for ideas or organizations to join in which projects are being organized. The local free shopping publication is also a good place to look.

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3) Plan to give back: How will you thank the students, teachers, family members, and friends for all the wonderful experiences you had while living in the US? What would you like people to remember about you after you leave? A simple gesture of thanks can leave an indelible impression on those around you. Maybe you can make your host family a photo album, or write a letter to your school. Perhaps there is someone in your neighborhood who did something nice for you that needs a little help around the house?

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4) Returning home: It may be weeks away, but you will be surprised at how quickly time goes by, especially when you are busy with final semester obligations. Start gathering your plan for your return trip. Make sure to give yourself some time. Sit down and think about the next few weeks. Make a “to do” list and give yourself some reasonable goals. What will you hope to accomplish between now and the end of the semester? What will you be sorry to have missed when you return home, or have you made the most of your experience from start to finish?

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The J-1 exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Make sure you take advantage of it. To all of our students and families, ISE wishes you all the best in the coming weeks. Be safe, happy, and healthy, and enjoy Spring!

Red Cross Month: How You Can Help

The American Red Cross has been helping people in need since it was founded by Clara Barton in 1881. Known internationally for humanitarian aid and disaster relief, the American Red Cross has been a source of compassion, medical care, and CPR training for millions of soldiers and civilians since its inception.

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This year International Student Exchange has teamed up with the Red Cross to help them accomplish their mission. ISE students and families have already begun organizing and executing blood drives and gathering donations for Red Cross outposts across the country. Want to get involved? Well you’re in luck, because March just so happens to be Red Cross month. Right now is a great time to get started.

Most people know the Red Cross as an organization that runs blood drives, and it is true that blood collection is a large part of what they do. But did you know that the Red Cross also provides classes and training in lifesaving skills; provides food,water and supplies to disaster victims; and has offered support to the military since the 1800′s? Internationally known for its efforts to help those in need, the Red Cross is always looking for volunteers to expand their network and fulfill the needs of more and more people.

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There are plenty of ways that parents and students can get involved:

-Organize a donation drive at your school or church. Funds are needed to obtain supplies and personnel both at home and abroad.

-Set up a blood drive. Gather a few of your community members or friends together to make this happen. Collection points can be at a school or any other community center willing to let the space be used. Red Cross personnel can make themselves available for your blood drive.

-Help the Red Cross by volunteering at one of their outposts. Trucks get dirty, offices get cluttered, and organizing events is hard work. The Red Cross is always happy to accept help from local communities.

-Take a lifesaving course, get certified, and share your newfound knowledge with your friends and family. Learning CPR and other lifesaving techniques are invaluable for you and those around you. One day you just might save a life.

-Begin a social media campaign. Pressed for time or can’t give blood? Why not use your Facebook and Twitter accounts to help out?

These are just a few ideas, but there are many more on ISE’s Project Help site, and at redcross.org. Assisting the Red Cross is an excellent way to complete service hours for your exchange program or gain community service experience. Check them out today and see how you can help.

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